Protecting Your Pets During Tick Season
Ticks and Your Family
Right now humans are staying inside to protect themselves from COVID-19, but our dogs still need to go outside and enjoy their daily walks. That means they're still at risk of getting ticks! Ticks require 4C/39.2F to start “questing”; questing is when they reach their creepy little legs out and wait (or trek along the grasses) to find a blood meal. So, pending your geography, these creatures could already be out and you likely have already found one (or three!) on your dog or yourself.
In North America, there are a variety of ticks to be aware of such as the Brown Dog, American Dog, Deer/Blacklegged, Lone Star, and Gulf Coast. Each tick carries their own potential risks of transmitting blood-borne diseases like Lyme, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis. These diseases can vary in severity, but, of course, it’s much better to prevent transmission than it is to treat them! Firstly, if you do find a tick on your dog then you should do your best to remove it.
Follow these steps from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for the best results in removing a tick:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts of the tick to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
If you have a long-coated, or thick-coated, dog then sometimes the ticks are hard to find before they become engorged with blood. Not to mention that ticks are very small! They can range from the size of a pinhead to a pencil eraser. If a tick happens to latch onto your dog, then having them on a product that kills the ticks before they can transmit anything (before 24 hrs) is ideal. Prevention is the key!
An important part of a pet’s resilience to any invading parasites is a complete and balanced diet. So to support skin health and overall well being, please ensure you are feeding either a commercial diet that works well for your dog or a balanced (with supplements) fresh food diet. Joy Foods can help you in the cooked meals department! Our meals were designed by board-certified veterinary nutritionists and are customized to your own dog. Every week, we will send you 14 pre-portioned meal pouches for each dog signed up for the program. Then, just store them in the freezer until needed!
Prevention - Medicinal vs Natural
It’s important to protect your dog not only from ticks, but from fleas and heartworms. There are many products out there that can be helpful and your Veterinarian is the best person to ask about what is the most appropriate for your dog. There are both oral and topical prescription products that will kill, but not repel, these parasites.
There are differences between parasiticides (InterceptorⓇ RevolutionⓇ, Simparica TRIOⓇ, etc) and pesticides (AdvantageⓇ, AdvantixⓇ, ZodiacⓇ). A parasiticide is a substance used to kill parasites (especially those other than bacteria or fungi). A pesticide/insecticide is any substance or mixture of substances meant for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pests. Each has its own method of action. Right now your veterinary clinic might be doing curbside pick ups or even mailing out preventative products so reach out to them to ensure your dog gets protected!
However, there isn’t one method that is going to be appropriate for all pets
(and people!). Pending on your comfort level, and what is recommended by your Veterinarian, there are other options that exist to help prevent/deter ticks. Environmental control with Borax powder or diatomaceous earth are products that people often go to when they want “natural” protection against ticks (and fleas). However, you should use caution before using these as not only can they potentially not be effective, they are toxic if inhaled so do not use these on your dogs or when your dogs are in the house. Please also wear a mask!
A mixture of diluted essential oils can actually be used as tick/flea repellents and can be sprayed/misted onto your dog every 30 minutes when out for a walk. Essential oils like citronella, thyme, rosemary, cedarwood and more can be used. But remember, essential oils are potent, volatile substances and they always need to be diluted before using them and should only be used under the supervision of your Veterinarian. Also, for people with cats at home, many essential oils are toxic to cats so please seek advice from a medical professional before bringing any home.
Dr. Rona Sherebrin, DVM, CVA has created a proprietary blend of essential oils that you can use/purchase here: https://wholesomecanine.ca/collections/grooming/products/totally-buggin-for-dogs
Other products that harness the protection of essential oils are the Envirocollar and Enviropowder from Truly Sensible:
Remember, before considering any product, medicinal or natural, please discuss what would be best for your dog, and family, with your Veterinarian.
Article by Kelly Gredner RVT, VTS (Nutrition)
Kelly has been a Registered Veterinary Technician for 14 years with the last five of them being as a Nutrition Technician, specialized through the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians (AVNT). Her interest in nutrition grew as the years went on and she loves being able to help beloved pets, one bowl at a time. She currently resides in Toronto, Ontario with three cats and works full-time in a small animal practice.